who we are
Generation Spirit is a nonprofit organization on a mission that is powering a social inclusion revolution in high schools nationwide. In 2008, our founder created the nation’s first high-school based inclusive cheer team in a small Iowa town. In 2009, she created "The Sparkle Effect," to help other students do the same.
Over the past decade, The Sparkle Effect's mission, vision, and family of teams have grown beyond our wildest dreams. In 2020, the Sparkle Effect changed its name to Generation Spirit to match the power and the passion behind what has truly become a nationwide movement for inclusion.
what we do
Over the last decade, Generation Spirit has launched and supported over 225 teams in 31 states that have directly involved more than 20,000 students with and without disabilities and impacted millions more.
Our team members come together in equal measure and on equal footing. Equal measure means our teams work in a roughly 1:1 ratio of students with and without disabilities. Equal footing means that on Generation Spirit teams, students without disabilities are never cast in the role of mentors, helpers, or volunteers. We reject the assumption that students with disabilities need more help or mentoring than students without disabilities.
Our teams are student-designed, student-led, and student-driven. Generation Spirit works behind the scenes to facilitate the unique vision of our student leaders. We mentor them and facilitate long-term success through free on-site training workshops and team apparel grants. We believe every school should have access to inclusive programming, so we provide our services free of cost to our teams.
why we do it
Our values animate our mission and our day-to-day operations. We combine three core components to drive long-term transformations in the communities we serve: school spirit, disability, and young people.
Students with higher levels of school spirit perform better academically, engage more civically, and experience higher levels of happiness than their less-spirited peers. Spirit bridges social divides, provides a sense of belonging, builds relationships, and helps to forge long-lasting bonds.
Our work focuses primarily on inclusion as it relates to bringing together students with and without disabilities. Many people assume that people with disabilities want to (or need to) be included in activities exclusively for and with other people with disabilities. In our view, separation rarely results in equal opportunity. We believe that all students share the same need for a genuine team — a team that meets frequently, works together to create and implement spirit-raising activities, and enjoys a strong, physical presence at school events.
Today’s students value diversity and inclusion. They've been raised with inclusive classrooms, activities, and social groups. As a result, most have developed an early appreciation of disability as a natural part of life, rather than an exception to the norm. And, the fact is, only one group is positioned to meaningfully include students with disabilities: other students.
WHEN OUR TEAM STARTED, THERE WERE NO STUDENTS WITH VISIBLE DISABILITIES WHO WERE ENGAGED IN ATHLETIC EVENTS. NOW, OUR TEAM IS ACCEPTED AS PART OF THE ATHLETIC CULTURE, WHICH HAS CHANGED THE SPIRIT AT GAMES."